My husband and I flew on the Nine-0-Nine on Feb 23, 2018, at Cecil Field near Jacksonville, Florida. The flight was amazing. I was thrilled to be on board the B-17 and to share a tiny bit of the experience the men had who flew in it during World War II. As a writer of historical romance set during World War II, I’ve done a lot of research on the B-17. My first published novel, Kitty’s War, features a hero who is a navigator with a B-17 crew flying bombing missions over Europe. Since both the B-17 and the B-24 flew from England to Europe during that time, I researched both, finally selecting the B-17 for my novel. So getting to see a B-17 in person was incredible, but getting to fly in one was a spectacular event in my life.
I’m writing this post to honor the crew and passengers of the Nine-0-Nine who were on board when it crashed in Connecticut on October 2, 2019. Both pilots and five of the ten passengers died that day. Seven others had severe injuries and are still recovering. The crash was such a tragedy, especially for the families and friends of those who were killed and injured. It was also a tragedy for the Collings Foundation and for all of us history buffs who yearn to have the first hand experiences these flights offer.
I am posting here some of the pictures I took the day we flew in the Nine-0-Nine. Some I have posted before and some I have not.
The pictures above show where we entered the plane for our flight, the seats in the waist gun area and the exit door from the inside.
These are pictures of the crew while in flight. We weren’t supposed to bother the pilots. Note that the co-pilot on our flight was a woman. The nice guy standing was the “flight attendant.” He got us all situated and told us what we could and could not do.
During the flight we were allowed to unbuckle our seat belts and walk around in the plane.
I walked around the ball turret and through the radio room.
Then I walked through the bomb bay, alongside the fake bombs, on a very narrow metal bridge with only ropes as hand holds. When the B-17 is in flight there is more motion in the plane than on a modern commercial jet. The motion made it more difficult to walk around. These two pictures show the view as I started through the bomb bay and one that didn’t get quite focused due to the motion of the plane.
I stood in the Flight Engineer’s position behind the pilots before dropping down to the “tunnel” leading to the nose. I had to crawl so I was glad to have the polished wood for my knees.
The bombardier and the navigator sat in the nose. They had quite a view.
I started back to my seat in the waist. Here is a view through the bomb bay toward the waist.
Back in the waist area we looked out the windows. As you can see we weren’t very high. Nothing like the flights at 20,000 feet requiring oxygen.
After a smooth landing we were back on the ground safe and sound.
It was an incredible flight. Every time I talked about the flight I said I would do it again in a minute. And I would, still, after the crash. It was so sad to lose the Nine-0-Nine, but all the other historic military planes should keep flying and keep taking people like me for the ride of their lives.